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Tennessee House Ousts Democrat, Two More Awaiting Expulsion Vote; Resolution To Expel Second Tennessee Democrat For Gun Protest Fails; Israel Says, Security Forces Striking Gaza Right Now; Pentagon To Release Review On U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan; Now: Third Tennessee Democrat Speaking Ahead Of Expulsion. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 06, 2023 - 18:00   ET




ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, we are following two breaking stories, first, outrage in Tennessee after Republicans expel a Democrat from the House legislature for protesting gun violence on the House floor. Right now, two more Democratic lawmakers are also staring down expulsion votes.

Also breaking, escalating violence in the Middle East, Israel striking Gaza tonight after facing a barrage of rocket attacks. The Israeli ambassador to the United States is standing by to join me this hour.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Alex Marquardt and you're in The Situation Room.

We begin our coverage tonight in Nashville, Tennessee, where a Democratic -- a lower Democratic lawmaker, a Democratic lawmaker was just expelled from the state legislature after protesting gun violence on the House floor.

CNN's Ryan Young has been on the scene all day for us. Ryan, there are two more Democrats who are also in jeopardy of being ousted tonight. What is the latest in Nashville?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alex, people are exasperated by what's going on here. We've seen thousands of protesters show up to the statehouse all day long. And if you look behind me, you can see how tense the situation is, especially with troopers and Capitol police still remaining in the hallways here.

But today really has been about the voice of the people. They surrounded this building. They've been loud chanting. But inside the conversation that so many people didn't think was actually going to happen, the fact that these three members could be expelled. Justin Jones, of course, as you've already said, has been expelled. Gloria Johnson and Justin Pearson could learn their fate in the near future.

The Democratic Party here in the state of Tennessee believes this is absolutely going to go down and all three members will be expelled. But get this, they'll be able to run for their seat again. The fight, though, was over the fact that kids and teachers were killed, and that's what they were trying to do.

Take a listen to the passion that has spilled out here in the statehouse today.


STATE REP. JUSTIN JONES (D-TN): The world is watching Tennessee, because what is happening here today is a farce of democracy. What is happening here today situation in which the jury has already publicly announced the verdict. What we see today is just a spectacle. What we see today is a lynch mob assembled to not lynch me but our Democratic process. But it will not stand because no lie can live forever.


YOUNG: This has played out like a reality T.V. show, all happening in front of everyone, everything being televised. I can tell you when Ms. Johnson is done, she plans to come out right there, those doors. We plan to be able to talk to her. After this is done, all three members plan to hold a news conference around 7:00 tonight here local time where they're going to talk to the media about what they feel is the first blow against democracy that can't believe that members would basically be thrown out for decorum reasons.

And I can tell you a passion from these protesters has been something to see. There have been parents and teachers showing up with children, but also for their voices to be heard, because they feel like no one is talking about what we should be talking about, which is gun violence and maybe some smart provisions to put in place to stem some of the tide of violence. That has not been talked about today because, obviously, the focus has been on what's happening to these three members and the change in policy here in Tennessee that people believe will send shockwaves throughout the entire country. Alex?

MARQUARDT: What an extraordinary scene without law enforcement behind you, Ryan, as well as all those people up in the gallery.

Ryan, I also want to ask you about what Representative Justin Pearson said earlier today. He is also facing expulsion. He blamed white supremacy and patriarchy for this moment.

YOUNG: He had some tough words for him as well. We actually caught up with him in the hallway. I saw him walking by. We chased him down and wanted to ask him some questions about this. He was very clear. He says, look, this is a state that started the Ku Klux Klan. He believes that white supremacy is playing a role in silencing young black voices in the state of Tennessee.

He went on to say that he believes this is the first blow that's going to happen across the country. He says, the eyes should be paying more attention to what's going on here. Take a listen to what he had to say to us in a few minutes ago.

[18:05:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STATE REP. JUSTIN PEARSON (D-TN): I do not have a belief that people can know that children are dying, know that people in communities across the state are dying and they still choose to do nothing. They'd rather support the NRA. They'd rather call children who are 9 and 10 and 12 and 13 insurrectionists, saying that they are as violent as the folks on January 6th who killed police officers, who killed fellow Americans. They calling children insurrectionists in the state of Tennessee because they don't want to see justice come here and that's a problem.


YOUNG: Alex, when this is done, I hope to catch up with some of the Republicans on the other side to talk to them about why they felt like they needed to make this move. It would be interesting to hear their perspective, especially with all the eyes of the country watching the moves here made in Tennessee. Alex?

MARQUARDT: And we have seen some of those Republicans questioning Representative Gloria Johnson on the floor as we speak. She, too, is part of that group who may face expulsion today, along with Representatives Justin Pearson and Justin Jones.

Ryan young, stay with us. We will come back to you.

I want to get more reaction from a top Tennessee Democrat, Representative Karen Camper. She is the minority leader in the Tennessee statehouse and she is running for the mayor of Memphis. Representative Camper, thank you so much for joining us on a very busy and dramatic day.

I want to ask you about your colleagues who are now being punished for participating in this gun violence protests, of course, that followed that horrific mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville last week. How much of an overreach do you feel this action is, this expulsion and potential expulsion of these two others? How much of that -- how much is that an overreach by your Republican colleagues?

STATE REP. KAREN CAMPER (D-TN) (voice over): Thank you so much for having me and for broadcasting the voices of the people here in Tennessee. This is an unprecedented overreach. We have never seen anything like this, for people standing up for their constituency and fighting for the people of Tennessee. I am appalled at the actions that this body has taken. We've seen people do much more horrendous types of things here never been brought to this level of expulsion. It's a travesty and it is a terrible precedent to set.

MARQUARDT: This was this was described earlier today about one of your Democratic colleagues as an unprecedented power grab. What can you and your fellow Democrats planning to do in terms of a challenge? Is there anything you can do to challenge this move today given what little power Democrats have in the Tennessee statehouse?

CAMPER (voice over): Well I think it's appropriate that the attorneys who have been hired by the members to craft how they want us to deal with it, and I won't try to get in the way of what they have planned for the members. I will say we will continue to fight our team to put together some legislation that we're going to try to get this super majority to push through because we want to get this gun violence we have here not only in America, but here in Tennessee.

And Tennessee is always talking about being a leader and I'm encouraging them right now to lead on this effort. Let Tennessee be the leader of how we can change gun violence in here, how we can pass good legislation to make sure that our children, our families aren't affected. People are dying every single day here in Tennessee, and indeed in the country, but I'm talking about Tennessee right now. And so there are things we can do. I won't get in the way of what legal actions become of this. I wouldn't want to jeopardize their cases.

MARQUARDT: We did just play a little bit of sound from your colleague, Representative Pearson, who spoke very emphatically, very passionately about what he believes is driving this today. He called it white supremacy and patriarchy. Do you believe -- do you agree with him that this move, to expel three of your colleagues, has been motivated by both race and gender?

Representative Camper, can you still hear me? All right I believe we have lost Representative Camper, who was on the phone. We will try to get her back.

In the meantime, I do want to go to our experts and analysts to get reaction and dive into this a little bit deeper.

Jeff Zeleny, I want to go to you first. How much of a dangerous precedent, do you believe, this could set specifically using this kind of procedure, expulsion to silence the political opposition?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, it certainly is possible in many states across this country because of how legislatures are elected, how legislatures run, we have not seen this. We should point out this is very rare and this may be the only time this happens. This is a symbol of our broken politics in the country.

It's a symbol of -- and the reason for that, of course, is gerrymandering, how these legislative districts are drawn.


It is a design to put the left, blue on one side, the red, the Republican on the others side and not have really any mixed districts at all, urban, rural, et cetera. So, it could happen in many other states. We will see if it will. There are some political downsides from obviously what is happening today. So, we do not know what lessons will be drawn from this.

But one thing I'm struck by when you look at the pictures that Ryan Young was showing us from inside the Capitol there, the young voters, the young activists, this is something over the last decade or a couple of decades, actually since Columbine, these young voters, young activists have grown up with school shootings. This is not just an ordinary political debate. This is about guns.

So, there are certainly some older politicians who are wondering about is this the movement that could cross party lines and is this something that could change politics? We will see that is something that's not being nearly discussed enough on the floor of the Tennessee legislature today is the gun debate, the actual underlying point of all this.

MARQUARDT: And what is taking place on the floor of the Tennessee legislature right now is Representative Gloria Johnson, who is who is speaking. And she has surrounded by some of her colleagues as she defends herself and before she herself faces a vote of expulsion.

It is notable, Ron Brownstein, how rare it is for a lawmaker in Tennessee to be expelled. The last two examples of this were for a conviction of bribery, a representative who was convicted of bribery, I believe that was in 1980, and then more recently in 2016, someone who was accused of multiple instances of sexual misconduct. So, Ron, does this protest meet the threshold of expulsion?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, look, this is this action is, on the one hand, unprecedented, virtually unprecedented, and on the other hand, I think entirely predictable. Unprecedented in the sense that, as you say, there is certainly no example in Tennessee, and maybe not anywhere in the country of legislators being expelled from their jobs to which they were elected by their constituents where they thought it's sort of infraction. It's entirely predictable, Alex.

And this is that it is the culmination of what we have seen radically accelerate since 2020, which is red state Republicans and Republican- controlled state using statewide power to override the decisions of diverse, Democratic-leaning metros. I mean, we've seen preemption spread in everything, economic issues, like the minimum wage and paid leave, to law enforcement where you have in multiple states like Georgia and Missouri, efforts by Republican-controlled legislatures to remove policing and prosecutorial power from local officials, many of them black, two of the officials in this case being black, and the preemption of curriculum in schools, with the statewide laws, preventing the teaching of certain concepts on race, gender and sexual orientation.

This is really kind of the tip of the iceberg and, in many ways, an extension of what has been happening as you have these Republican coalitions whose statewide power is rooted in their dominance of predominantly white, non-urban areas, increasingly using that power across a wide range of issues to override the decisions of racially diverse, blue metro areas in their own state. And there's no sign of slowing down. It, I think, represents an ominous new height, but no sign of slowing down.

MARQUARDT: And, Audie Cornish, you know, Tennessee and Tennessee politics very well, the severity of the actions today. Does that surprise you? AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. I'm so glad you have Ron because he's written so elegantly about this, in general. This is a great example of a state where the tensions between the kind of rural ex-urban and suburban Republican-led districts have come to grow in power over the last decade. And today is actually the result of several little sort of battles.

The dished -- the council that is supposed to run Nashville, right, the capital, actually is in court trying to fight as state Republican- led effort to cut down its numbers. I don't think it's an accident that two of these members, one is from Nashville, one is from Memphis, these are popular population centers and often with sort of blue or Democratic governments that are constantly at loggerheads with the state.

So, Tennessee is a sort of picture perfect example of the kind of trend that Ron has been writing about so well.

MARQUARDT: And the third the third, Gloria Johnson is from Knoxville, and voting has begun on her expulsion.

We should remind our viewers that, you know, when you take the constituents of these three representatives combined, this is tens of thousands of Tennessee residents who may, by the end of the day, be without representation, at least for a short while.


Ryan, I want to go back to you in the statehouse. You have been there all day surrounded by all these hundreds of protesters. Do you think being there, if Democrats had been protesting others, something other than gun control and guns and who can have access to those guns, do you think that these lawmakers would be on the brink of expulsion? What's your sense of that?

YOUNG: You know, it's a very tough question. Because one of the first things I asked somebody was, was there an olive branch that could be offered either way to make this not go down. And when I was talking to the Democratic leaders, they said they thought this was already figured out before they entered the floor today. So, they really felt at this point that it was it was going to be over.

You can hear the people yelling in the background.

MARQUARDT: Ryan, let's listen to what's happening on the floor there. Let's take a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. That's out of order, out of order.

Representative Farmer, you are recognized in the well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, I move the Dawson (ph) House Resolution 63.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chairman formed this adoption of House Resolution 63, probably seconded, Chairman Farmer. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I request that the court brings the resolution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Clerk, read the resolution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: House Resolution 63 by Chairman Farmer, resolution to expel Justin J. Pearson from the state as a member the House of Representatives in the 113th general assembly from the Tennessee (INAUDIBLE) by the 86th district, whereas Article 10 (ph), Section 12 of the Tennessee Constitution, the House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior and with concurrence of two-thirds expel a member, but not a second time for the same offense and shall have all the powers necessary for branch of the legislature of a free state, and whereas all members of the House of Representatives must comply with the permanent rules of order of the Tennessee House of Representatives (INAUDIBLE) general assembly, including reserving order --

MARQUARDT: All right. We are seeing Gloria Johnson. They are getting hugs on the floor of the Tennessee statehouse.

Ryan Young, I want to go back to you. Do you have a sense of what just happened there? It seems that they are celebrating.

YOUNG: So the crowd is celebrating, and tell me why again you guys are celebrating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe that Gloria made it by one vote. What we understand is it takes two thirds. We have a 99-member House. It takes 66 votes to expel. I'm a little confused about the quorum today and whether it's 66 of the whole House or two thirds of what's present.

But right now, it looks like Gloria survived.

YOUNG: That is -- and you feel that the size of --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's huge. That's huge. I mean, it sucks that they took out Justin and they may take out Justin Pearson later, but for them to not have a clean sweep is big for us.

MARQUARDT: What has it been like to the (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been a very defeating day.

YOUNG: Who are you, by the way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charles Offerman (ph). I'm a voting rights activist. I focused on protecting voting rights in Tennessee with my organization that I work for, Organize Tennessee.

MARQUARDT: And how big of a blow has what's been going on into the community?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In my daily life, I want to make sure every Tennessean's vote counts and to have 200,000 Tennesseans have their vote ripped away today, it's sickening. And for us to at least be able to save 70,000 folks' votes that's big. And I hope it's a nail in the coffin to this extreme legislature we've got here.

YOUNG: So, you see, this is all playing out. We're in the hallway still. Gloria actually uses -- was going to come out that door, we believe. So, what we're going to do is we're just going to try to wait in this area to see if she still comes out to address the public because that's what lawmakers have been doing. Alex, we've never seen anything like this the way it's playing out and the way people have sort of organize themselves to listen to every single word of what's going on, as we speak.

MARQUARDT: So, Ryan, as we understand it, this was the second vote of expulsion of these three representatives. Justin Jones was expelled. Now, Gloria Johnson appears to have survived. There still is a remaining vote for Justin Pearson, who represents Memphis. But, Ryan, could you recap what we know until this point?

YOUNG: That that is one of those things where they believed by one vote that she has made it, that she will not be expelled. Of course, what we like to do is get a little closer so we can hear the final tally, but it appears at this point, each member had to go through their own sort of hearing. They would talk for 20 minutes, they would take questions. She used the lawyer to move forward.


She also talked about being a teacher herself and feeling the pain of having students be worried about school shootings. But we're not sure if that really connected with the folks on the inside, and she was saved by one vote. It's something that we're still paying attention to, as you can see all the people who have lined up here to pay attention to the same things we are.

Of course, we were live with you as that vote was happening. So, I haven't even heard the total number of votes that was given.

MARQUARDT: All right. Ryan, stay with us. I want to go back to Audie Cornish. Audie, what's your reaction? What do you think this means for Justin Pearson, who has just stepped up to the podium?

CORNISH: He represents Memphis and, you know, I think he and the other lawmaker who was expelled right now. Remember, they represent Gen Z. I mean, these are people who aren't just talking about gun rights now, they've been activists for a long time as young people. And I think they've even been to the statehouse before doing protests in other capacities. To be honest, I think we should listen to Pearson. He's an excellent orator, and I think it will give you a sense of what's going on in the state.

MARQUARDT: All right. Audie, we are going to listen in. I just want to note for our viewers, this is Justin Pearson. He is the third Democrat to face expulsion in the Tennessee statehouse after Justin Jones earlier was expelled by this House that is controlled by Republican supermajority and Gloria Johnson, who we understand has survived her vote by just one vote, an extremely narrow victory. Ron Brownstein, I want to go to you for your reaction to what we're seeing right now.

BROWNSTEIN: Look, I mean, I think you really have to understand that in the context in which it is unfolding and what we have seen this kind -- this is the most severe but it is on a trajectory where we have been in other red states. I mean, Ron DeSantis has removed from office one elected Democratic state prosecutor and is in the process of building in a case against a second. Missouri and Georgia have passed a procedure to override and remove local Democratic prosecutors in big counties. Texas had taken over the Texas State, the government has taken over the school district in Houston and potentially going to do so in Austin, across the board, Alex.

And this is I think the most, you know, dramatic example. We are seeing a Republican coalition in the red states that is rooted in its dominance of predominantly white, non-urban areas. The speaker who is leading this in Tennessee, his district is 92 percent white, and they are moving across the board with incredible boldness, to remove democratic, small D, decision-making from them more diverse metros, but they're also, by the way, the envies of their economy. If you look at the economy of Texas or Georgia or Florida or Missouri, it is being driven violently urban centers and yet the Republican coalition's power is derivative of their control of the non-urban areas are really going way beyond anything --

MARQUARDT: Ron, I got to cut you off. We're going to listen to Gloria Johnson, who has just left the floor. Let's take a listen.

STATE REP. GLORIA JOHNSON (D-TN): We have to keep this up. We saw what that body looks like when there are cameras in there, when there's national news saying, what's going on in Tennessee, when they didn't stifle our voices at all today. But this is the first time that that's ever happened. And we did what we needed to do. And I can't feel good, too good because my colleague, Justin Jones, who was an amazing human being, who cares so deeply about his community, so I hope every one of you will do everything you can to help make sure he comes back here. We want him back here.

So, it doesn't matter where you're from. It doesn't matter where you're from, Knoxville, Nashville, whatever. You can always help. There'll be special elections. There'll be appointments no matter where you are. Help, help, help and registered to vote right there. No action, no peace, that's right. And what that means is until you act, we will show up and stand up and speak out. And that's what you all are doing. And don't doubt for a second that the reason they're talking about gun legislation right now is because you are here today, you are here yesterday, you are here Monday and you'll be back here again. Keep showing up, standing up and speaking out, and we will be with you.

MARQUARDT: All right. Representative Gloria Johnson there of Knoxville speaking with supporters and activists at the Tennessee statehouse after just narrowly surviving her expulsion vote by, we understand, one vote, calling on those activists to keep coming, keep protesting, keep showing up and asking them to try to help. [18:25:19]

Let's go back to Ryan on who's speaking with Representative Johnson.

JOHNSON: -- but at least they tried to allow debate. That is more debate than we have ever had in the last four years. So, just know keep watching. To the nation, keep watching. We're losing our democracy. We need to make sure that we stomp out this march to fascism. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and we cannot forget that as on everything, folks.

REPORTER: Should America be worried about what we've seen here today?

JOHNSON: America should absolutely be worried about what we've seen here today. They have expelled one member. I need to get in there and stand with my colleague. Yes, and we're going to fight hard to get him back.

I will answer your question I might have to do with the color of our skin.

YOUNG: So, this is happening now, the two representatives hugging each other in front of this crowd of enthused people. So, you can see two members together. One was expelled, one was narrowly kept in.

MARQUARDT: All right. Ryan Young, stay with us. We've also got Representative Karen Camper back on the line. And, Representative, if you're there, could you -- what do you think of the fact that Gloria Johnson has just narrowly survived this expulsion vote? She just made the point that it could be about the color of her skin. She is white. And as you can see there, Justin Jones, the representative, who was expelled earlier, is black. How much is that playing into this?

CAMPER (voice over): Hi, thank you so much. Sorry, I had to jump off the way that I did but I couldn't miss that vote. I did hear her comments. I feel that she made a very compelling argument. I think she reached the consciousness of people. And I would hope that that is not a true statement. I hope that we are going to rely on the fact that he made a compelling argument and that compelled speech. You know, she reached their consciousness and some of them have the courage to break ranks and do what they know was the right thing.

MARQUARDT: And just moments ago, we saw Justin Pearson at the podium. We believe, we assume he's still inside speaking. He is an extremely compelling speaker. But now that we have had these split results of Johnson surviving the expulsion vote, Jones being expelled. What do you think that means for Representative Pearson?

CAMPER (voice over): I think Pearson is a phenomenal young man. He has a great potential year. He's going to be and already is a wonderful legislator. He would make his case. He was fighting for the people, for all the young people that still represented here today, and I'm encouraged by that last vote that he, too, will be able to sustain this expulsion.

MARQUARDT: And if he is expelled, and we know that Representative Jones has been expelled, do you expect them to run in special elections to try to get their seats back?

CAMPER (voice over): Absolutely. The way process is they would have to be -- there would be someone who's appointed in the interim, and they very well could be that person and be reelected in a special election. I do expect that they're county bodies would reappoint them and they would affect one for re-election and that the people that they represent will send them back because they want them fighters and they want them up in the (INAUDIBLE), and they want them doing something for gun reform, of gun safety in our community went for a walk.

MARQUARDT: This truly is a moment of reckoning for Tennessee and maybe for the country. How much do you think that is due to the fact that the gun debate is so fiercely debated in this country? How unique is this issue in terms of what we're seeing today?

CAMPER (voice over): I don't think the issue is unique. People have been fighting for years, and so have we, but what they did is created chaos. And sometimes it takes chaos to make change when things are shaken up. They made a bold move, a bold statement to reach this -- to elevate this voice. And I was just watching, you can't have a mass shooting and people are ready for something to be done.

So, I don't think that it's unusual, people have been fighting for years. But I think at this moment in time in history shaking it up has resulted and all eyes in Tennessee but eyes are everywhere else, as well, as other people want the same for their community.


MARQUARDT: Representative Camper, if you would, please do stay with us. Our Ryan Young is speaking with Representative Justin Jones, who has just been expelled from the Tennessee House. Ryan?

YOUNG: Yes, Alex. We watched what just happened there. What emotions are running through you right now, because, obviously, this has played out across the country, everyone is focused on this? Are you broken at all? Do you feel sorry about what's happened?

JONES: I'm not. I'm not broken. You know, I stood firm in that well because we need to let the nation know that what's happening in Tennessee is a danger to the nation. What we saw today was authoritarianism. What we saw today was the undoing of the will of my voters, of my constituents, of 78,000 people in my district, where silence -- it's one of the most diverse districts. I'm the youngest black lawmaker in this -- I was the youngest black lawmaker in this body. And so what we're seeing is a very dangerous step in Tennessee that should signal to the nation that this is -- if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.

MARQUARDT: I saw Gloria Johnson look at you. It's a moment that we all watched with her hugging you. And she remarked about the idea that maybe it's the color of your skin the reason why you're out and she's still in. And I see a lot of people who don't look like you shaking your hand. What was that moment like to have her reflect maybe on your race being the reason why you're no longer in that House? JONES: I mean, Representative Johnson, Sister Gloria has always stood with us and knows that we have been challenging systemic racism. We saw a KKK statue in this Capitol. She stood with us when I was a community organizer. And so, I mean, you cannot deny what you heard today, where my colleagues telling me that I'm basically an uppity negro and that, you know, I didn't bow down and I won't bow down because this is too important for the next generation.

And so what they're doing today is simply demonstrating to the world that we don't have democracy in Tennessee, that this system -- that there is a system of systemic racism that governs in Tennessee. Cameron Sexton, the speaker of the House, should be ashamed of himself.

YOUNG: I can't leave here without asking you this, because the reason why you went out there was because babies lost their lives. So, what should people know about the fight that you have in you about gun violence and what you want to see changed?

JONES: I mean, from the time Trayvon Martin was killed, you know, protesting in 2013, I've been fighting to address for common sense gun laws. And so, I mean, that's what brought us to the well with those nine lives including three -- those six lives lost, including three nine-year-olds. And that's what I was thinking about when I went to the well, that thousands of young people here who are saying, we are scared for our lives, for our future who begged this body to act. That's why I stood up there in the well.

And I'll continue -- I would do it again and I'll continue to stand for them because this is an issue of life or death. We need to remove these weapons of war from our community and we need to make sure that our schools, our zones, our children can flourish, not just survive but thrive and flourish. That's what I'm fighting for. So, I would stand in that well again. I will fight for the -- no title is worth the future. I want my kids to live in which is safety from this proliferation of militarized guns in our community.

YOUNG: Will you try to get your seat back? Do you plan to fight to be back in the same house?

JONES: I mean, what they did is unconstitutional, I believe. So, we'll fight legally. But, you know, what they did today was not trying to expel me, they're trying to expel our movement. And they're unsuccessful if you look around and all these young people. And so whether I'm inside the chamber or outside the chamber, we will continue to fight, we will continue to push the issue because today demonstrates for the nation that we in Tennessee are not a democracy and that should scare us all.

YOUNG: If you were talking to a Republican who may not agree with everything that you're saying, you know, people, especially in the south, love of guns, is there anything that you can say to them that you would want to change, that you could see that maybe both sides could come to some sort of agreement?

JONES: I think, I mean, the majority of Americans support common sense gun laws, universal background checks, red flag laws. I mean, these are common sense things that we need to -- we can act for. But there's an extreme group, an extreme faction who is beholden to the NRA, like my colleagues in here, like the speaker of the House, Cameron Sexton. And so what we need to hold them accountable to is to say, let's do the will of all the people and not of these special interest groups who are -- who don't have the interest of our children. My child's life is not going to be worth a gun. And so that's what we need to say. And that's what I hope my colleagues on the House seat.

YOUNG: Thank you for taking the time. Thank you for stepping out and talking to us. I appreciate it. Thank you. I appreciate it.

So, you saw that play out, Alex, this has all been going down, people wanting to talk and meeting him and this will happen again because now we'll obviously get to watch what happens for the next vote. Alex?

MARQUARDT: All right. Ryan Young stay with us. That was Representative Justin Jones telling our Ryan young that what just happened was unconstitutional, that this was an effort to expel our movement.

I want to go back to our Audie Cornish. Audie, we just heard Representative Jones saying there that we are not a democracy. I want to get your reaction to what he told Ryan.

CORNISH: I mean, one of the things I'm hearing there, though, is also a generational shift. I mean, in a way, there's a generation of lawmakers coming up where I think we're calling them sort of Gen Z, and they have been talking about issues around gun policy for a very long time. And in him, you could hear sort of all of those ideas come together, especially when he said that the lawmakers were not just expelling him but trying to expel a movement.


I think there's something to that, the idea that there's a much more confrontational politics going on from lawmakers of his age group who want to be louder, right, and who want to step up even when they're in the minority.

MARQUARDT: And, Jeff Zeleny, I want to go back to something we were talking about earlier. How much do you think guns are a galvanizing force and turning this into such a unique situation, just an extraordinary situation that we're seeing on the floor of the Tennessee House and the waves, the ramifications that we could see all across the country?

ZELENY: It absolutely is a force. We do not know if this one shooting will bring about change. Obviously, if history is prologue, it will not. After the Sandy Hook shooting, as we covered Congress that debate, we surely thought there would be some action. There was not. But we do see, as Audie was saying, a different movement. We see engaged young voters across the country and we certainly see them there today in Tennessee. And if you bring in a historical thought, you know, just some six decades ago, the Nashville student movement, also a profound moment in the civil rights movement right there in Nashville, with John Lewis, C. T. Vivian and so many others, and they did not necessarily follow the rules as prescribed by the orders of decorum. This gun violence goes beyond orders of decorum, so we shall see. But I do believe that there is a moment for young activists and voters. We've seen it in election after election. We'll see if that goes forward.

Alex, I also want to mention we're getting word that the White House has been following this very carefully as well. President Biden just tweeted this about the debate. He said three kids and three officials gunned down in yet another mass shooting, and what are officials focused on, punishing lawmakers who joined thousands of peaceful protesters calling for action. It's shocking undemocratic and without precedent, the president wrote.

So, clearly, President Biden following that, and all these three Democratic lawmakers there in Tennessee clearly now have been elevated, and this -- more attention has been drawn onto the issue there than if Republicans had not moved to expel them.

MARQUARDT: And Biden immediately calling for an assault weapons ban renewal following the horrific killing at that school in Tennessee.

All right, everyone, stay with us. We are going to be staying on top of the situation at Tennessee's statehouse.

Up next, we have breaking news out of the Middle East, Israeli forces launching airstrikes on Gaza. That's happening right now, after dozens of rockets were fired into Israel today out of Southern Lebanon. Stay with us.



MARQUARDT: We are following breaking news in Nashville, Tennessee, a third Democrat speaking now ahead of his expulsion vote.

Also breaking this hour, Israeli forces are striking targets in the Gaza Strip tonight, the latest escalation in violence there after Israel faced a massive rocket barrage from Lebanon earlier today.

CNN Hadas Gold is joining us live from Northern Israel with more. Hadas, these airstrikes coming not long after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to retaliate. What more can you tell us?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alex, the security cabinet just wrapping up. But even as it was going on, the Israeli military was carrying out airstrikes in Gaza, saying that it was striking several Hamas militant sites. And meanwhile at the same time more rockets were being fired from Gaza into Israel. As of right now, we have no reports of injuries on either side.

Meanwhile here in Northern Israel, I'm very close to the border with Lebanon. It's a tense quiet, just a few hours after the largest barrage of rockets Israel has seen from Lebanon in decades.


GOLD (voice over): Streaking across the sky in Northern Israel, dozens of rockets fired from Lebanon Thursday, according to the Israel Defense Forces, which said it intercepted most of them but some made impact this car hitting the Israeli town of Fassuta, and in Shlomi, the storefront of this bank was destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear the siren, I hear them warn. I was in my home. It was very, very scary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'm still shaking because it said children are not supposed to see this in this age.

GOLD: The Lebanese army says it found these rocket launchers and rockets close to the Israeli border Thursday and is working to dismantle them. Israel has pointed the finger at Palestinian groups and doesn't think the Lebanon-based Hezbollah was responsible. The Israeli military said it would, quote, decide on the place and time of its response.

Not since the war between Lebanon and Israel in 2006 have so many rockets been fired across the border, a worrying sign of escalation in an already tense time for the region. Israeli police stormed the Al- Aqsa Mosque multiple times this week as Palestinians gathered for Ramadan. Footage from inside the mosque showed Israeli police beating some worshippers with batons and rifle butts. Police say they moved in after Palestinians barricaded themselves inside the mosque, threw rocks and set off fireworks.

Jordan, the custodian of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, told CNN that it believed Thursday's rocket attacks were response to Israeli actions at the mosque.

AYMAN SAFADI, JORDANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: The two are obviously interconnected, where, unfortunately, at the exact moment of dangerous moment, which we've worked for months to avoid, which is a moment where violence is erupting.

GOLD: As the first day of the Passover holiday came to an end, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a meeting of his security cabinet.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We will strike our enemies and they will pay the price for any act of aggression.

GOLD: Multiple hotspots flaring up at once, just as Easter begins in this holy land and all three main religions are supposed to be celebrating.



GOLD (on camera): Now, why are the fighter jets striking Gaza and not appear where I am towards Lebanon first? That's likely because the Israeli authorities have been very careful to point the finger specifically at Palestinian militant groups, not at Hezbollah because striking Hezbollah, that could lead to an all out war the likes of which this region has not seen in many decades and likely the damages and the deaths would be far more extensive. I don't think that either side wants to see that just yet.

But this situation could very easily spiral even more out of control as we speak. We are expected to hear more rockets. More airstrikes continue, potentially throughout the night -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: It certainly could, and Israel is certainly watching Hezbollah carefully.

Hadas Gold in northern Israel with that report, thank you very much.

Now, also tonight, the White House is defending President Joe Biden's decisions around the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August of 2021.

Now, there was a Pentagon report issued to Congress on the chaotic final days of the war.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is joining us from the White House with a closer.

Arlette, this was a long awaited review. We have seen just a small unclassified part of that review. What are we learning so far?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Alex. The classified version of this report was transmitted to lawmakers up on Capitol Hill, but so far, publicly, there has simply been a 12-page summary of that report that looked into the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

Now this report does not overtly admit any mistakes. Instead, what they try to portray our lessons learned from that situation, including the need to quickly evacuate people from situations like that, as well as warning Americans faster about deteriorating security situations. But one thing this summary does do is places some blame on the previous minister administration that was led by former President Donald Trump. The White House arguing that essentially President Biden was constrained in what he could do because of some of the actions that Trump had put into place, including that agreement that he made with the Taliban to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by May of 2021.

Take a listen to John Kirby, a top spokesperson with National Security Council talking to reporters earlier today.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: While it was always the president's intent to end that war, it is also undeniable that decisions made and the lack of planning done by the previous administration significantly limited options available to him. The president's transition team asked to see plans for that removal, they asked to see plans for a security transition to the Afghan government. And they asked to see plans to increase the processing of special immigrant visas. None were forthcoming.

Transitions matter. That's the first lesson learned here. And the incoming administration wasn't afforded much of one.


SAENZ: Now, former President Donald Trump's team has pushed back on that saying from a spokesperson that quote this administration is trying to gaslight the American people for their disastrous withdrawal in Afghanistan that directly led to American deaths and embolden the terrorists.

Now what White House officials have been saying throughout the day as they're trying to take those lessons learned and apply them to other situations, including the security situation in Ukraine, but certainly this moment that withdrawal from Afghanistan marked one of the major flashpoints for President Biden on the world stage. He has faced so much criticism over the way that withdrawal was played out and today, the administration continues to defend his work and also trying to offer some of the areas where they believe they've learned some lessons.

MARQUARDT: All right. Arlette Saenz, with that long awaited review. Arlette, thank you very much.

Coming up, we are staying on top of all of the drama unfolding on the floor of the Tennessee state house, where one Democrat has already been expelled over a gun violence protest.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



MARQUARDT: We're back with the breaking news out of Nashville, Tennessee. We're keeping an eye on the dramatic developments in the Tennessee state house. One Democrat already expelled another surviving her expulsion vote as the legislature ways expulsion for a third member now.

CNN's Ryan Young is on the scene in Nashville.

Ryan, what is the latest there?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, we're waiting to see what happens with Justin Pearson. He's talking right now inside that state floor. Of course, that's what people are focused on right now, because all day long each member has had to go before this legislative body and make the case for them to stay.

Now, we do know Justin Jones was expelled. Gloria Johnson, her position was saved, and she talked to us just in the last half hour, but all eyes are now focused on whether or not Justin Pearson will make it through this vote, and you can come back here and see the hallways. This is where people have been lined up all day. Thousands of people

have shown up to the state house to have their voices heard. They want to talk about gun violence and maybe gun control. That has not been the conversation today. The conversation has been focused on these three members who are faced with expulsion for what they call a decorum violation.

So we do know one member has been expelled. One has been saved. And, of course, now we're waiting for this final vote to see what happens to this last member. This has been an extraordinary amount of pressure put on this entire body as everybody across the country has been watching this and we'll see what happens next -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: All right. Just extraordinary scenes at the Tennessee state house and Ryan Young has been in the middle of it all day long.

Ryan Young, thank you very much for all of your reporting.


Also tonight, the judge overseeing the case against former President Donald Trump is now facing new scrutiny tonight after political donations that he made to Democrats came to light.

CNN's Kara Scannell is on the story again for us.

Kara, these were very small contributions, but they do raise an important question of potential bias. What are you learning?


And some allies of the former president are focusing in on that, wanting Judge Juan m Merchan who's overseeing this trial to recuse himself from this case. So what we learned from federal election records is that the judge had made $35 in donations. Oh, I'm from in July of 2020, those donations -- $15 went to the Biden campaign, $10 went to Progressive Turnout Project and $10 went to stop Republicans. These are two voter turnout groups.

I spoke with a professor of legal ethics, and he says that the American Bar Association and the New York Code of Conduct could make some -- could suggest that some of these donations are forbidden. But he said it comes nowhere close to grounds for recusal.

We asked the court administrators for comment. They're declining to comment on these donations tonight, Alex.

MARQUARDT: And, Kara, the district attorney, Alvin Bragg, is also pushing back quite forcefully on house Republicans here in D.C. because of the pressure there that they're putting him under. What's he saying?

SCANNELL: Yeah, Alex. I mean, there is just in this on going back and forth between the House -- the House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan and the District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Now, tonight, Alvin Bragg has a new statement out. He's tweeted, the House GOP continues to attempt to undermine an active investigation and ongoing New York criminal case with an unprecedented campaign of harassment and intimidation, repeated efforts to weaken state and local law enforcement actions are an abuse of power and will not deter us from our duty to uphold the law.

Now, this statement coming after Jim Jordan has subpoenaed a former prosecutor from that office, Mark Pomerantz. Pomerantz resigned last year after Alvin Bragg would not authorize him to move forward to seek an indictment, of the former president related to the accuracy of his financial statements.

Jordan now wanting Pomerantz to come in for testimony. He set an April 20th deadline, and Pomerantz is declining comment tonight. But we should note that previously, when Jordan asked for this voluntary interview, Pomerantz told them that the district attorney's office directed him to not cooperate with their investigation -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: All right. Kara Scannell in New York, thank you so much care for all your terrific reporting.

Let's get analysis now from our legal and political experts.

Andrew McCabe, I want to start with you and the judge's contributions to President Biden and Democrats. It is, as Kara and I were saying, a minimal amount, $35. But it's still not a good look for a judge to have made these donations, is it?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It's not a great look, Alex, but let's be honest, do we -- are we at a place in American political life? Where if you have participated in the in the political system at all, is a voter or supporter of candidates. You're now excluded from executing any sort of judgment or responsibility over somewhere from the other party. That seems absurd.

You know, we have seen many appeals of Donald pushed by Donald Trump on many issues in the last couple of weeks that have been heard by judges who he appointed to the bench and you didn't hear any cry for having those folks. Recuse themselves as well as they shouldn't have.

So, I really think at the end of the day this is much about nothing.

MARQUARDT: Shan, would you -- do you agree that it's absurd? Or do you think the judge there should be a conversation about the judge recusing himself?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Absolutely not. I agree with andrew. This is absurd. Some minuscule amount by comparison. If you look at the ridiculous luxury trips taken in secret by Justice Clarence Thomas, and there is no requirement of transparency there, what we see here?

There's a requirement of transparency. The judge disclosed these contributions. If the House and Congress want to do something constructive, let's make the Supreme Court disclosed all these luxurious secret gifts and trips that they take.

MARQUARDT: Yeah, those trips and gifts from a Republican mega donor in an explosive new report by "ProPublica".

Andrew, we only have about a minute left, but I want to ask you about what we just heard Kara talking about attorney, that the attorney general Alvin Bragg -- sorry, district attorney rather, his forceful response to those House Republicans. He called their attempts an unprecedented campaign of harassment and intimidation. What do you make of that?

MCCABE: I think he's exactly right. I mean, let's -- let's face it, on the federal level, the Department of Justice refuses -- often gets a request from Congress to go up and talk about ongoing investigations. They routinely refused to do so. This is a case that is still being prosecuted.

We are locked way before any point at which the prosecutors should be appearing before any sort of congressional panel to talk about what they're doing. I'm not sure that they ever should, and it's a state federal issue involved here as well. So I believe he's on the right ground.

MARQUARDT: All right. Well, we will certainly hear more, I would imagine from Congressman Jordan in that back and forth.

Shan Wu, Andrew McCabe, thank you, as always, for your time and your insight tonight.

I'm Alex Marquardt in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.